Unfortunately, there is not currently a cure for epilepsy. While epilepsy medication exists, it is not for curing the condition. The medication is for seizure prevention. Anti-seizure medications are common for someone with epilepsy, but there are other treatment options to explore.
Vagus Nerve Stimulation
Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) involves sending short electrical bursts directly into the brain through the vagus nerve. The electric burst comes from a silver dollar-sized battery implanted under the skin. The device is programmed to send these electrical bursts to the brain. Keep in mind that this is a newer treatment option for epileptic seizures. Some physicians are not comfortable with such a new and intrusive form of treatment.
For some individuals, passing a magnet over the vagus nerve implant stimulates additional electric bursts. This can stop a seizure, shorten a seizure, make a seizure less intense, or decrease the recovery time following a seizure. However, some people claim the magnet does not help. If you decide to try magnets, keep these safety tips in mind:
- Never store the magnet near any electronics, other magnets, or credit cards.
- Never drop the magnet (it can – and will – break).
- If the magnet helps, always have a magnet with you.
- Teach friends and family members how to pass the magnet over the implant.
In some cases, magnets and implants are programmed to cease the electrical bursts for a period of time. The reasons a person might want to stop the bursts for a period of time include:
- Speaking or singing in public
- Eating (if the individual struggles with swallowing food)
- Experiencing discomfort or pain from the implant
Having a magnet isn’t a bad idea even if it does not help with your seizures. The magnet is also a great way to check the battery of the implant. If you pass a magnet over the implant and it does not pulse (or stop pulsing), you know the battery needs to be replaced.
When other treatment options – such as anti-seizure medication and the VNS treatment – are not effective, surgery is a viable option. In some cases, a surgeon will attempt to remove the parts of the brain causing the seizures. A surgeon will decide if you are a candidate for this based on how much damage it would do to you if the surgeon removed a chunk of your brain. Surgery is not a very common or popular treatment for epilepsy. In fact, this treatment is usually a last resort. Typically, the challenge is locating a doctor willing to take this approach.
Start a seizure trigger diary to figure out what factors trigger your seizures. Once you know your triggers, you can avoid them to avoid seizures. This means avoiding stress, getting enough sleep, eating healthy meals, and not drinking or doing drugs.
Naturally, anti-seizure medication is the most common – and effective – treatment type. The key is taking the medication every day so a steady stream is in your system. If medication doesn’t help, perhaps one of the other treatment options will.